Feline Pancreatitis – Dyson and my Story
I have been sadly remiss in writing for this website the last couple of weeks. For that, I apologise. However, Dyson had a major health scare which sent me into a little bit of a tailspin. At one time I thought that I was living at the veterinarian office. Luckily, she was diagnosed with feline pancreatitis very quickly so could begin early treatment. But this disease is very dangerous in cats, which I did not originally realise. I thought therefore that I would let you all know about our story so that if this happens to you, you can deal with it quickly.
How It All Started
Our Sunday a couple of weeks ago was exactly the same as usual. Dyson and Callie played and then slept in their cat tree for a few hours in my computer room. I left them alone for a couple of hours and when I came back Dyson was in her paw bed looking a little grumpy. Now Dyson does sometimes have grumpy moments where she likes to be left alone and is then completely back to normal the following day.
So I left her alone to be quiet. She didn’t even eat her treats (and usually Dyson loves treats above all).
The following day she was still the same, so now I am worried. And she did not sleep on my head in the night. So off to the vet we go but at this time the only symptoms were:
- Off her food – especially her treats
- Keeping quiet out of the way
- Going to the toilet as normal
Not much to go on.
So she had a blood test and her temperature taken. Her temperature is slightly elevated and her blood test showed nothing apart from slightly low sodium and slightly high potassium. The vet, therefore, thought she has picked up a bug so we have an antibiotic and Metacam for any discomfort. This is now Monday and the assumption was that she should be feeling better by Wednesday but if she was still feeling out of sorts on Tuesday I needed to give another dose of Metacam.
Once the Metacam wore off on Wednesday night it was obvious she had not got over this bug so we had another appointment for the following day. And she was still not eating. Now if you have cats you know how important it is for them to eat as otherwise they can get hepatic lipidosis which is extremely serious.
The Second Vets Visit
This time I had one symptom to add to the list. I had noticed on Wednesday night that she would back away from food and she was acting as though it might make her gag when she smelt her food. Luckily I noticed this and mentioned it as immediately the vet assumed pancreatitis and admitted her for the relevant blood test. Two hours later results were in and yes, feline pancreatitis it was.
I initially felt relief. After all, I was beginning to worry it was a tumour. However, I did not initially realise how very dangerous feline pancreatitis is. But Dyson was immediately admitted and put on an IV drip. She was also given and antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory plus and anti-nausea injection. This feeling of nausea was the symptom I noticed when she backed away from her food and is a big indicator of pancreatitis.
Once I had got home and did some research I then realised how dangerous pancreatitis can be in cats.
What Is Feline Pancreatitis
The pancreas is part of the digestive system and is important because it produces the enzymes which help digest food and produce insulin. With pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes severely inflamed and the flow of enzymes into the digestive tract can become blocked. This then forces the enzymes into the abdominal area.
Once this happens the digestive enzymes then start breaking down proteins and fats in other organs. Basically, the body begins to digest itself. As the liver and kidneys are so close to the pancreas they are at risk of being affected and usually, the abdomen can become inflamed. In severe cases, the abdomen can become infected and if bleeding occurs in the pancreas shock and death can follow.
It is extremely painful for cats. But as usual with cats, they do not show that they are in severe pain apart from being quiet. They also feel very nauseous and therefore don’t eat food.
Dyson was kept in overnight and this is the only part of her care that I was not happy with. Most of the vets in my area use an out of hours vet service due to some EU rulings. So a nervous and ill cat has to be boxed up and transported to another facility. And then the following morning the reverse happens. She has to be boxed up and taken back to the vet’s office.
Not only that but the overnight area was considerably noisy with lots of animals from all over the city. Dyson is naturally very timid so she was pretty freaked out. I was also not impressed because the overnight service seemed more focussed on me paying their overnight fee than my cat’s care.
However, I was given the great news the following day that she had eaten 3 bowls of cooked chicken while in their care. This was a surprise as she does not usually like cooked plain chicken. (she is very fussy with her food). What made it even more surprising was that she still refused food and treats the following day at the vet’s office. I severely questioned whether she had eaten those three bowls of food after all.
Rather than spend another night at the out of hours vet service I requested that she came home. So she was dosed with anti-nausea medicine, given and antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory (vetergesic). The vetergesic needed to be given every 8 hours by oral syringe. So has to be put in her mouth but as it is absorbed she should not swallow it. So I had to place the syringe in her mouth and then place the anti-inflammatory on her tongue. This is quite easy to do with Dyson as she allows me to give her tablets quite easily.
Whilst at home she still was not eating. She would slightly pick at a bit of dry food. I was really questioning those supposed 3 bowls of food she ate at the overnight vets.
She was still not eating on Saturday morning. So back to the vets for another antibiotic and anti-nausea injection. I was then given tablets and the oral vetergesic to give her at home for the next few day. They were hoping she didn’t need more anti nausea as it had to be given at the vets.
I did mention to my usual vets my disbelief that she ate food at the out of hours vets place. Especially since she was so stressed out whilst there. I have since complained about the out of hours vet place as well. I do hope that vet surgeries will start to take overnight care back inhouse.
But my focus was to now get her eating. So as she has some cat food that is poached in a broth I thought I would syringe feed her the broth to encourage eating.
I picked up a 5ml oral syringe from a local pharmacy. This I used to draw up the broth from her cat food pouches (I use Almo Nature, raw chicken which is slightly poached in this tasty broth). and then fed a cc at a time so she didn’t choke. Now with most cats, you are advised to wrap them in a towel when you feed them as they can struggle and scratch. However, as Dyson is fine with oral medicines I did not do this and it worked ok for us.
I held her between my legs and slightly tipped her head up and then syringed 1cc at a time. You do have to be careful that you do not squirt the food down your cat’s throat as this can cause choking. Instead gently press the plunger of the syringe to do a bit at a time. This first time I managed 4 syringe fulls before she got fed up with it.
I then continued this every 6 hours (did I mention I did not sleep much that week?).
Making My Own Broth
To give her more nutrition I bought a blender and made up a cat food mix. It consisted of a pouch or tin of cat food with extra water to turn it into a thick broth which would fit the syringe. It was slightly thinner than baby food. This I continued to feed every 6 hours for the next couple of days.
After a couple of days, I tried to encourage her to start eating from a bowl again. She didn’t seem to be gagging now when she smelt food but I thought it might be psychological. After all, food made her feel sick ergo let’s not eat. So I got out a saucer instead of her bowl and I would feed her one syringe of my cat food mix and place the rest of the broth into the saucer. After doing this a few times she started licking a little out of the saucer.
You wouldn’t believe how happy I was with this – I think I rang my best friends and mother to tell them all.
What Food Should you Feed
There was some really conflicting advice about this. Some people say high protein and low fat whilst others say high carbs. My vet did say to try not to give her high-fat food. But when you are encouraging a cat to eat, especially when they are a picky eater, I, therefore, would give her food I know she loved.
I am now going to have to transition her back off the unhealthy food but to me, that is a small price to pay. But the good news is that a few days later she is eating on her own accord.
A cat can relapse though even if they start eating. So my syringe is on hand just in case. But we have now finished with the course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory and she has completely perked up. Dyson is even now happily munching her treats and even demanding them when she thinks she has done something clever.
I always try and prevent these things happening again in future. But according to my vet, it is very difficult to tell what causes feline pancreatitis. In humans, it is alcohol and fatty foods for example. In cats it can be anything from bacterial, pesticides, stress, food allergies, the list goes on. Dyson does not go out so at least that rules out pesticides.
Whether there will be a reoccurrence only time will tell. Some cats only get this once and it never re-occurs. Whilst others will have recurring symptoms. Now that she has had it though if she goes to the vets with the same symptoms next time then pancreatitis will be the first disease tested.
I am glad that Dyson did not have a more severe case and I think that was because the vet picked up really quickly when I said about the gagging motion.
Dyson is now feeling much better this week. She has been eating though maybe not as much as usual at the moment. She is also back to sleeping on my head at night which seems to be her favorite sleeping place (though she steals the pillow).
In conclusion, though I am glad I took her to the vets so early as I think we caught pancreatitis before it became too severe. As cat owners, we know our cat personalities and when they deviate from their usual routine we know it. If this happens to you make as much note as you can of how they differ from usual and take them straight to the vet. It is also better to be safe than sorry.